Returning Djokovic can't wait to relight the fire

Roger Federer

Nadal nearly claimed a second Australian Open title past year, only to be edged by Roger Federer in a thrilling final.

The Serb is set to return to the court after six months away after being forced to retire during his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych.

Del Potro has not played in Melbourne for four years because of his injury troubles but heads back with his status as a Grand Slam contender restored by his memorable run to the US Open semi-finals.

Despite his achievements in a long career, motivation for Nadal, who needs to reach the quarter-finals to be certain of retaining his world number one ranking, with Federer breathing down his neck, remains undiminished.

That is giving Djokovic some hope.

"I'm hoping that it can be 100 per cent at the start of the tournament".

I felt like physically I might be alright but I thought the game and the wins were just not going to come.

The world number two is chasing Grand Slam number 20, a feat which would underline his status as the greatest player to ever pick up a tennis racket. His 2017 comeback could be inspiration for the likes of Djokovic, who has won the Australian title a record six times but has been sidelined since Wimbledon because of a right elbow injury.

Veteran Venus Williams could see this as her chance to notch up an eighth Grand Slam, and the number two seed will be looking to go one better from previous year, when she lost to her sister in the final.

Garbine Muguruza

Off the court, the 30-year-old Serbian said he enjoyed a closer-to-normal family life off the court, including being there when his wife, Jelena, gave birth to their second child - a daughter Tara in September.

Federer, who is five years older, said: 'I think Rafa, in a way, is still in his prime.

Now it's a less dramatic, more compact swing and he was happy with how it worked in an exhibition win over Thiem at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event earlier in the week. "Although it's not entirely different... even those small changes have made a lot of difference", he said. "I don't want to say "new serve", but new service motion".

"There are three or four details that I have changed", Djokovic said.

Injuries to leading players have been a focus of attention in Australia.

Ironically Djokovic was replaced by Andy Murray at Mubadala.

In recent months, meanwhile, ATP Finals victor Grigor Dimitrov and Zverev have moved up to No. 3 and No. 4 in the rankings, respectively, and are growing in confidence that they're on the cusp of Grand Slam breakthroughs. Even before the first match, the Open courted at least two controversies - by allowing former champion Maria Sharapova (2009) to conduct the draw less than two years since she tested positive for a banned substance and former great Billy Jean King saying the Margaret Court Arena should be renamed because of the 11-time champion's "derogatory" views on sexuality.

"However, if the elbow lasts, I still know what I'm capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world", Djokovic, who will face American Donald Young, added.

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